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Customer Review

123 of 146 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great game but nothing's really changed., 2 April 2011
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Shogun 2: Total War (PC DVD) (DVD-ROM)
I own all the Total war games. I have a big problem with Shogun 2; apart from different AI (and I say 'different' not 'better' for a reason, see below) and updated graphics (plus a few minor other touches), there's not much I haven't seen before.

There's all sorts of really groundbreaking things they could have added, such as a real time campaign map (have a look at Defcon to see how this might work), or the ability to have a 'parallel universe' mode where you can rewrite history by developing technologies that were never developed (but would have been feasible at the time, such militarised hot air balloons or 18th century versions of the Maginot line and other such low, 'anti cannon' structures to replace forts... not fantasy stuff, but stuff that could easily be used without destroying the 'sense of the period').

What would have been **really** cool would have been a new 'War council' window, where you can plan high level tactics with your allies... things like agreeing which city to attack, so that you and your allies send armies to lay seige to the same city by the same turn (after the appropriate money has changed hands of course), or instructing a particular faction to protect your back as you move forward to attack an enemy, or simply asking a protectorate for some of their unique units (effectively allowing the trade of mercenary armies between nations, and so you can build multi-national armies... how cool would that be - attack an Ally and their mercenary units in your army turn against you; politics and strategy finally start to blend). NB - I can't see the War council idea being difficult to implement as this actually occurred in Medieval 2, where the Vatican issued crusades i.e. factions had to send an army to seige a city by a certain turn).

All not to be. Perhaps the worst disappointment is the AI..

Yet again with Shogun, the AI starts off looking great, but a few plays in in, you can beat it straight away. Despite the sales blurb, the AI isn't that great. I won't give the game away for Shogun 2, but the previous Empire AI certainly had a problem with cannons; it didn't understand line of sight (AI cannons spent all their time shooting at the sides of mountains in hilly maps) and the AI always sent cavalry on suicide runs against well defended cannons. The Empire AI was also useless in defence; you just (1) pick off the enemy horses with your cannons, which (2) leaves the enemy cannons defenseless, then (3) hit the enemy cannons with fast moving horses from the side/rear (which is now easy as the enemy has no horses of its own to counter), and finally, (4) decimate the enemy infantry with your cannons and/or move your infantry into buildings if the enemy start advancing. You could beat the Empire AI consistently not because of skill, but because of the known mistakes it made.

Unfortunately, it is looking like the Shogun 2 AI is the same, albeit with different mistakes.

I think the big issue with all Total War Battle AIs is that they never realise that combined (or even paired) units can have a weighting greater than the sum of the parts, and that the weighting of many units changes with range or location. The AI just cannot move its forces in a way that increases its multipliers and certainly not in the same way a human opponent would. Once you realise that failing, all total war AIs are simple to crack.

Another big issue I've always had with the Total War battle AI is that you always seem to be playing against the same opponent. It doesn't matter which historical general you are playing agaist because the AI general always plays the same strategy. In real life, Napolean fought one way (heavy reliance on cannons), whereas the Prussians fought a totally different battle (split army into two, one side holds the enemy to the front, whilst another line attacks from the side), whereas the British simply built a massive trading empire (complete with massive navy to protect the supply lines) and then funded everyone else for most of the time (hence 'Nation of shopkeepers'). I'm not that knowledgeable with Japanese tacticians, but unless all Japanese generals used exactly the same tactics on the battlefield, the Total War AI is still emulating the same single nameless general it always did.

For the campaign AI, it is still not true to life either. In real life you get power blocks building up, where *all* weaker nations become protectorates, and you cannot attack any weak country without incurring the wrath of a superpower. Such political dynamics is non existent in any of the Total war games (because in the game model political ties are too weak to promote such dynamics). As implied earlier with my 'War council' idea, political ties are also still not really useful - you cannot work with your allies in any tactical way (other than trade) as there is no real way to attack and defend together.

Finally, in the world of quad core (or i7 x8 threads) processing, it would be expected that the Creative Assembly would finally write multi-thread efficient code. They haven't.

Shogun 2 only uses about 10-15% more processing power than Napolean total war (and yes, I set the graphics way down to ensure the graphics card wasn't the bottleneck). Sure, the Shogum 2 engine uses 50-60% of a quad core, but that is only as efficient as other notable game engines were 2 years ago (and implies dual core optimisation). If you have an i7, then much of your extra threads will be wasted for now. Maybe ok for a mindless first person shooter, but you would expect better from a deep strategy game.

Given all this, Shogun is the second Total way game I wish I hadn't bought on release (the first being the original Empire Total war). My advice is to wait 6 months until the price comes down a little, the AI is a little less obvious (either via updates or third party AI patches), and they start throwing the DLCs into the deal.

The Total War games are still the best strategy games out there, but I won't be buying them on release again; this is worth 3 stars on release. but perhaps 5 stars in 6 months time.

*** Update June 2011 ***
The price has now halved from release, and the all important post release patch has just been released (lots of little fixes plus full DirectX 11 support). Now is probably the time to buy Shogun 2 if you haven't already.

Post patch, Shogun 2's AI still has an awful problem with understanding doors (which is really not the step forward from 'a problem with understanding cannons'), but hey, at least the factions are more confident than in Empire (they actually attack each other in Shogun 2, and know how to invade from the sea), and although there are fewer units and little difference between faction units or maps in Shogun 2, at least Shogun 2 is more strategic.

Downside is that the units in Shogun are all a bit similar, with very few classes, little variation between factions, and no variation in the maps (Japan is a country with little climatic variation, etc).

*** Update May 2012 ***
The price is now less than a quarter of the original asking price. It is a steal at this price!
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 May 2011 09:51:12 BDT
Last edited by the author on 23 Jun 2011 14:35:30 BDT
ShammyB says:
To clarify a point in my review; applications that max out on 50% to 60% cpu useage are written for dual core optimisation. The only recent game that seems to be optimised for quad (and is therefore makes use of i5/i7 class cpus) is Crysis 2; I see +80% cpu usage in that game. In that light, a deep strategy game only optimised for dual core seems a bit archaic given current hardware trends!

Also, it would be nice in the total war games if you could wage war by proxy (i.e. fund wars by paying allies, in return for definite benefits later), rather than have to always either wage all out war or be at peace. That's just not accurate, and far too simplistic for a top end strategy game.
This is also particularly important in the Napoleonic wars as it was the British Empire's strategy for much of the period.

Posted on 11 Aug 2011 10:05:05 BDT
Last edited by the author on 11 Aug 2011 10:08:08 BDT
Arun says:
Very well put review, however, please note that factions in Empire Total War DO attack each other - and rather frequently, I might say. Sure, the American Theater is usually frozen dead, but the European theatre always plays out differently in each game.

I once saw Prussia conquer the upper half of Europe, while I as Austria took the lower half. Another time, it got crushed to the extent that its last remaining territory was Bavaria....and it then became a protectorate of Württemberg!!!! In another campaign, Sweden rampaged through the German duchies and got a solid foothold in Central Europe, just like during the 30 Years War. I've watched a Youtube video of the United Provinces doing the same.....I've seen Spain and France establish colonies in North Africa, seen the Mughals survive till 1738, seen Britain attack Italy, seen Russia conquer Iran, and Portugal is usually always annexed by Spain within the first 10 years.

As for cross theatre naval invasions - yes, I've seen them too. Marathas invading the Caribbean, for example, and even attacking me in Europe with a fleet full of Bargir infantry. Just wanted to clear that doubt.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Aug 2011 00:37:49 BDT
ShammyB says:
Hi Griesmayer
Yeah, they do attack each other, but I've found the Empire campaign AI a little anemic. Left to their own devices, they tend to be far less agressive than a human player. For example, whilst playing as Prussia, I tried to set up a buffer area of vassal nations between myself and a beligerent Austria while I took out France. They were hopeless! Far better to have taken them over myself and handled the defence of my flank myself!

Luckily, the AI in Shogun is very feisty, and you will often see the factions destroying each other, leaving only mid sized 'superpowers' by the first third of the campaign. This seems a much better setup, because the game does weed out the 'easy' factions early on, leaving you with only challenging opponents towards the end.

Posted on 19 May 2012 21:35:25 BDT
Last edited by the author on 19 May 2012 21:35:51 BDT
ShammyB says:
BTW, anyone looking for a more modern tactical RTS in the same mould as Total War (i.e. that isnt just a COH/StarCraft buld-and-rush clickfest RTS), take a look at Warfare: European Escallation (there's some good videos on youtube). This really feels like Total War for the modern age (1980iish cold war), at least for the battle map.

RUSE (by the same developer) is also a good one for WW2 (and currently sells for a few quid).

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Dec 2013 15:33:28 GMT
I really really like your idea of war councels and the funding of poxy wars - realistic and YES!, I would love that!
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ShammyB
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Location: Somewhere in Northern England

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